Late last year a genuine highlight was spotting Pasta Hoops, aka spaghetti hoops in a lovely little local Italian deli, which is a little ray of sunshine in a rather small town consisting mostly of takeaways and charity shops! Shortly before spotting them, I had spotted a recipe back on Green Gourmet Giraffe but she is the other side of the world and hadn’t thought I would find my hoops so quickly! How wrong was I! …Whilst its a little embarrassing I do secretly crave those tins of spaghetti hoops and to find I can make my own but an even better grown up version is rather good for the old self esteem!

Its funny as I found out after dancing my own little secret jig in the shop that with a very small friend profiling I could tell who had grown up with spaghetti hoops. Most of my friends saw the pasta hoops and theirs eyes lit up with childhood recollection of meal times, however it took more explaining to my Polish flatmate who didn’t quite understand our excitement.. I have since had to supply friends with bags of these too for their own experiments!

The night this dinner got made, one of my girlfriends was over for dinner, and despite normally being quite organised I hadn’t really quite planned our dinner, my friend is veggie and fortunately not fussy at all (love you Miss F!) and we kinda made this up as we went along. A fully stocked fridge thanks to Dad’s recent visit also helped!

Another new discovery for me was tinned cherry tomatoes, I don’t think I’d ever bought them before but I had a tin going spare from a goody bag after attending an Italian themed night with Sainsbury’s last year and I really liked them! I am not sure as to why I was so surprised they were exactly like cherry tomatoes but I was…the mind boggles!!

If there is any part of this recipe I urge you to keep is that by pan frying cauliflower first, it takes up a level flavour wise, producing an almost nutty flavour and so please do not skip the frying step! Trust me once you go no go back…! I have since moved cauliflower from bottom of my favourite veggies to at least a high middle!

Serves 4


2tbsp olive oil
1 medium sized cauliflower
Approx 250g Pasta hoops
1 Courgette, sliced into ½ cm dice
1 Red pepper, halved and sliced
1 tin cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
1 red onion, finely sliced
½ – to 1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 large garlic aka 3 regular cloves
2 tbsp Italian herb seasoning
s&p to taste


Cook the pasta as per instructions – I was surprised that despite the hoops being relatively small it suggested 18 minutes!

Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp of the oil on a moderate heat in a large sauté pan and fry the cauliflower for about 5 minutes, turning regularly until softened and lightly browned, spoon into a bowl.

Heat the remaining oil in the same pan and fry the onion until softened, stir in the pepper and courgette and fry for a further 4-5 minutes or until lightly coloured and softened. Stir in the garlic and chilli for about 30 seconds and add the tomatoes, swirl out the tin with a little water to catch any remainders, add the reserved cauliflower and herbs, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer, lightly covered, for about 15 minutes. Add the pine nuts at the end and season to taste.

Drain the pasta, and stir through the sauce. Smother with grated cheese if desired too!

Textually the pasta was great, I love the crunch of the pine nuts and cauliflower, plus the mediterranean vegetables made me think of warmer climbs, not cold and wet Surrey! Enjoy using your fork to collect up the hoops!

By andrei